Post submitted by Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, former Director of Faith Outreach and Training
Every year during the holiday season, HRC receives many calls and emails from LGBTQ people asking us how to handle situations with family and loved ones when difficult conversations arise about sexual orientation and gender identity, particularly around the subject of religion. Whether or not you are out to your family, their negative beliefs and judgments about LGBTQ people can create a toxic environment.
And we know from experience that these situations often occur unexpectedly -- when you’re gathered around the television watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or a football game, in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the holiday meal, or between bites of turkey and pumpkin pie.
While these conversations can be hurtful and unsettling, to say the least, we cannot expect to change hearts and minds in the moment. But our experience over the years has taught us that there are effective strategies for navigating minefields LGBTQ people face when spending time over the holidays with friends and family who may not be supportive.
- To prepare for questions regarding LGBTQ people and scriptural teachings, check out HRC’s “Coming Home” series of guides focusing on Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam and general Christianity. These guides will help you craft answers to some of the more common questions, and might inspire you to start a conversation about moving toward a more accepting theology. Also take a look at HRC’s “A la Familia” conversation guide.
- Avoid conversations in which scripture about a vengeful God are cited. Religion and faith are much more than scriptures. Remind people that God lives in all of us and loves each and every one of their creations. You may want to share our newest publication, Just As They Are, a resource to help parents recognize when and how conversion therapy is promoted, provides information about the dangers of the practice, and offers guidance to parents regarding practices that promote their child’s health and well-being.
- If you are anxious about potential confrontations with family members, make a plan to stay safe. If you are traveling to visit family and can afford it, stay in a hotel, or with friends so you have a refuge if needed.
- If you are not out to family and friends, HRC’s “Coming Out” resources provide valuable information, including how to make a decision that factors in your safety.
- Remember, you don’t have to spend the entire week or weekend with your family. Sometimes a shorter visit is best for all. It’s okay if you choose to spend time with your family of choice where you know you can feel accepted and affirmed for who you are.
These tips aren’t just for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, New Year's or Thanksgiving, but for all holidays and time spent with family, whether it be during Ramadan, Easter, Fourth of July or Passover.
Please remember that you are loved and your community is here to support you. If you need other resources do not hesitate to call The Trevor Project’s hotline at (866) 488-7386. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 or the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.